Atheist Organization Advocates Against Bible Class Program
Atheist Organization Advocates Against Bible Class Program: A famous atheist advocacy organization is urging Ohio school districts to reject an off-campus Bible class program in which public school students can participate during regular school hours.
On Tuesday, the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote to Ohio’s about 600 school districts, protesting the approval of release-time Bible lessons hosted by the Ohio-based ministry LifeWise Academy.
In a statement Wednesday announcing the letter’s distribution, FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor asserted that “participating students are being punished by losing hundreds of hours of academic instruction to LifeWise’s released-time bible study classes.”
“If parents want their children to learn about the Bible, there are so many ways to do it without cutting into valuable school hours,” she added. “The released time program involves a public school allowing students to attend religious instruction during school hours, provided that it is off-campus and not directly endorsed by the school itself.”
FFRF Anne Nicol Gaylor Legal Fellow Sammi Lawrence wrote in the letter that “Ohio law does not require allowing this disruption to the school day” and asked that any school district that has already approved the program “reconsider” their decision.
“At a minimum, school districts allowing released time must ensure that district staff members are aware of their obligations under the Constitution,” wrote Lawrence. “A public school district cannot constitutionally encourage student attendance at released time bible classes, nor may it expend district resources to promote, organize, or otherwise facilitate released time bible classes.”
Lawrence claimed the goal of LifeWise Academy is “to indoctrinate and convert public school students to evangelical Christianity by convincing public school districts to partner with them in bringing LifeWise released-time bible classes to public school communities.”
“FFRF has received several complaints from families in different school districts alleging that non-attending students were given busy work, or no work at all as a consequence of staying behind during released time classes,” Lawrence continued.
“Additionally, we have received at least one complaint reporting that a school assigned non-attending students additional homework seemingly as punishment for refusing to participate in a released time program.”
A spokesperson for LifeWise Academy told The Christian Post in a statement Thursday that they welcome the attention.
LifeWise, a religious education program launched in 2019, has received less resistance than expected due to the fact that it is an optional program.
The program, which was launched in 2019, has been praised by the Freedom Foundation for Religious Freedom (FFRF) for its efforts in spreading the word about released-time religious instruction.
The program has been embraced by over 300 schools across 11 states. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1952 that released-time religious instruction does not violate the Constitution as it follows the best traditions of the country.